The Gospel of God – Romans 1:1-7

 
I received a rare e-mail on Thursday from one of the members of Judy’s family. Generally speaking, the Price family is quite conservative, and some are fanatically conservative. At least in that regard they would fit in among us quite easily. The only communication that I get from the male members of the family always has a political overtone. They rarely ever send family news and never any silly e-mail which seem so common from others. Anyway, this particular note was in regard to the new George Washington dollar – the coin. It was a request that if anyone offers me this coin in change, I should refuse it. It recommended that I ask for the Federal Reserve paper money, which used to be just as hated – long before the arrival of the Susan B. Anthony dollar. And speaking of the Susan Anthony, that coin had something the George Washington dollar doesn’t. At least that hated coin bears the words “In God we trust,” and apparently this last coin doesn’t. So the request was made that Christians should reject this coin and keep it out of circulation.

Now, I can understand the logic of the request, and I understand the testimony and the desire. I don’t have a problem with trying to follow the recommendation. In fact, if the Apostle Paul had written to the Romans to avoid any coin with the head of Caesar on it, that wouldn’t surprise me a bit. But I would be very, very surprised if I found that kind of exhortation here in the introduction to Romans. If we found it at all, I would expect to find it in chapter 15 or chapter 16. That is back-of-the book stuff; it would never be one of the principle points of Bible Christianity. But actually, the Bible does say something about this kind of subject, and it is just the opposite to what that email suggested. But that is a different theme.

Let me point something that I’m not surprised to find in the introduction to the Book of Romans. I am NOT surprised to find the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ here in the very first verse. Since there has ever been a more important Person than Jesus, He deserves absolute preeminence. Since He is the Creator, and since every good gift and ever perfect gift comes through Him, He ought to be found in the first verse and the last verse of every book of the New Testament. And, lo, there He is in both spots in the letter to the Romans. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, of all things including Romans. And since, “neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” then I should expect to find the Person of the Lord, throughout this Book; and that is what we find. The Name “Jesus Christ” is found 38 times in these 16 chapters and “Christ” alone is found 68 times. And also, since the great message of Christ is the “gospel,” it doesn’t surprise me to find a reference to that here in the first verse either. What I am trying to say is that there is no more important subject under Heaven, given among men, than the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. As important as the doctrine of the church might be, or the subject of morality, or prayerfulness or un-Christian coins, they all pale in comparison to the importance of the gospel. And if you haven’t yet surmised, that is our theme this morning.

Paul tells us four things about the Gospel in these opening words. And it is quite easy to go from those four things to four hundred other points, But I will try to contain myself as much as possible. The gospel had been promised by God, it promulgates Christ, it is to be projected to all nations and it produces glory for God unlike anything else ever can.

The gospel of God was PROMISED long before it was clearly revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” First, let me remind you that we are talking about the Gospel OF GOD. It was God the Father who so loved the world and sent His only begotten Son. The Lord Jesus constantly insisted on this truth, referring to it about 20 times in the Gospel of John alone.

For example in John 6 the Lord miraculously fed about a gazzilion people, many of whom started stalking him. Even though He didn’t really mind his growing shadow of people, He did chide them for their reasons. “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” As the conversation developed some of the crowd said that they wanted the Lord’s eternal bread. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”

That Christ Jesus is the Bread of Heaven and that He posses and gives eternal life – these things are a part of the gospel of God. And in the midst of His evangelizing those people, Christ pointed out that He came from Heaven, and that He was sent from Heaven by God the Father. “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” This is what the gospel is all about, wrapped up in a tiny peanut shell. God sent His only begotten Son into the world to die a sacrificial death, to be buried, but to rise again from the dead in order to bestow His eternal life on a few unworthy, and dead, sinners. Yes, it is the gospel of God’s dear Son, and it is the eternal gospel, and the gospel of your salvation, and so on, but before them all it was the gospel of GOD.

And since God is eternal, and since the results are eternal, we aren’t surprised to learn that the good news of the gospel is eternal as well. What we know as the gospel was promised afore by Jehovah’s prophets in the Holy Scriptures.

Surprisingly, this is the first time that we read the words “holy scriptures” in pages of the Holy Scriptures. It’s not that the meaning of those words aren’t to be found earlier, but those words themselves are new. In fact the only other place where we read both those words togetheris in the very significant II Timothy 3 – “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” In over 50 verses, most of which come from the Lord Jesus, we learn that the scriptures are our Bible. When those words were first used, they applied to the Old Testament, but then the Apostle Peter teaches us that the writings of Paul were scriptures too. They are holy writings – God given writings – Holy Spirit inspired writings.

When Paul was referring to the “holy scriptures” in verse 2, he was talking about the Old Testament. He wanted to affirm from the outset that neither he nor Christ Jesus were starting a new religion. The gospel that he was preaching had been prophesied and promised by Jehovah’s prophets much earlier. But it is true that some of the details were initially shrouded in mystery. For example Genesis 3:15 probably made no sense to either Adam – or to Moses who wrote it down. But today, the eye of the believer can see the very first prophesy of the gospel. “And I (Jehovah) will put enmity between thee (Satan) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed (Christ); it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” But then we come to scriptures like Psalm 22, which contains so much of the four Gospels that if we didn’t know better we might have thought that they were written by the same man at the same time. And then there is Psalm 40 and Psalm 110 and a dozen other Psalms. Then we come to the unforgettable prophesies of Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 63. And there is Daniel 9 to which we referred just last week. Not only is the Old Testament filled with prophesies about the coming of Christ, it is filled with promises about the sacrifice of Christ and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul seemed so concerned that his hearers should remember at this gospel has its roots in the Old Testament, that he compared them constantly in this letter. Here are just a couple of examples: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”

The gospel of God was promised and prophesied in the Old Testament, because it has eternal significance.

And of course it PROMULGATES Christ Jesus.

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” The gospel is “concerning God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” To promulgate is to publically announce something; it is to publish it, preach it or promote it. And the gospel is primarily about the Lord Jesus and what He did on the cross and shortly thereafter. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

But the Gospel – the good news – begins with very bad news – “our sins.” The Gospel begins with the fact that there is not a person on earth who is not a sinner. Some people can live with that charge, and it not bother them, as if it was only a wart on their arm. But to be a sinner is much worse than a blemish, because that person is actually dead – spiritually dead. He is a corpse in the sight of the holy God. God warned our first human father, that if he disobeyed Him, he would die – and he did. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Even though Adam’s body lived nearly a thousand years after that, he was dead before God. “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

But as we’ve already seen, Christ was sent into the world to give eternal life to as many as believe on Him. And to accomplish that, it was necessary that He give up His own life as a substitute for those believers. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel … For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” “According to the scriptures,” “according to the scriptures.” Paul’s preaching was just like a bad spot on a gospel CD. The laser reader would hit that spot and repeat that phrase again, and again, and again. Christ Jesus died as a sacrifice the same way that all the Passover Lambs died in the Old Testament. And Jesus died in the same fashion as did the year Atonement bullocks and the Atonement goats died. The scriptures tell us about a ram that died as a substitute for the son of Abraham, and Jesus died according to that same pattern. The Old Testament sacrifices had to be spotless and sinless, and as such they were a prophesies of Christ. They had to be offered on God’s proscribed altar, just as Jesus’ died according to the will of the Father. There were dozens of requisites for an Old Testament scriptural sacrifice, and Christ Jesus met them all. “He died for our sins according to the scriptures.”

And then “He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” As Old Testament Jonah “was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” God had much earlier than that declared that the body of His son “would not see corruption.” At this early point of Paul’s letter, he doesn’t get into the depths of the gospel. But he just could not omit a passing reference to the resurrection of Christ and its tremendous importance. Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” As far as Paul was concerned Jesus’ resurrection proved him to be the Son of God and with divine power.

The Gospel of God, promised afore time, promulgates the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for our sins. There is no remedy for our sins apart from that sacrifice of Christ. But it needs to be understood that Jesus’ death doesn’t automatically or universally sweep people into Heaven.

Paul next tells us that this gospel must be PROJECTED unto all nations.

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: by whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations.”

Paul had been called of God to be one of the Lord’s special ambassadors. He had been chosen to be an apostle for the specific ministry of spreading the gospel of God for obedience to the faith among all nations. This gospel was never intended for the private use of a Jewish audience. The need of the gospel is universal, and the blessings of the gospel have been felt in every corner of creation. Jesus Christ was not a blond headed, blue-eyed European as some artists have rendered him, but he could have been as far as His salvation is concerned. I know that some silly Bible pictures have given him black skin and curly hair, and even though this isn’t true, He has still saved Ethiopians, Ugandans and people from Zaire. I don’t know if Christ has ever been depicted as an Asian, but He has certainly redeemed people from Japan, Korea and China. The gospel has been created by God to be spread throughout all nations.

But notice carefully the way in which Paul stated that fact: “for OBEDIENCE to the faith among all nations.” There is a command implicit in the gospel of God. There is a command to receive the death, burial and resurrection of Christ in humble, repentant faith. All right, the Son of God has given His life on the cross of Calvary. He was buried by his friends, guarded by his enemies, and laughed at by the foolish. And then he majestically walked out of that tomb and eventually ascended into Heaven. These events, no matter how miraculous, become nothing more than points of history until their effects are appropriated by faith. The sinner doesn’t deserve eternal life? He doesn’t deserve forgiveness for his sin? No, he doesn’t! He needs to bow before this Saviour and His Heavenly Father, in abject humility, repenting of his sins and his sin nature. If he doesn’t have a change of mind – a repentance – in regard to his wicked heart, the blessings of the gospel will never be given to him. And if he doesn’t believe on Christ, in the sense of putting his trust for eternity, upon the Lord, then he will die in his sins and spend that eternity in judgment.

This is the gospel which needs to be shared with all the people of all the nations of the earth. This gospel must be received by the individual peoples of the earth, or its effects will never be employed. The command of the gospel is to repent of your sins and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. When these facts are believed and when in obedient faith and repentance become a part of that sinner’s life….

The ultimate PRODUCT is glory to the Lord.

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.”

The gospel is all about the Name of God and the fame of God. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” And that being true, then it is that Name and that Name only which should be magnified in this evangelism.

Paul was a great servant, but he was nothing more than a servant. Verse 5 says that he had “received apostleship” – it was something to which he had been called. But prior to the apostleship, he had received grace – saving grace – just like any other Christian. The Lord had called him to the ministry and separated him unto the gospel of God. But prior to that he had been graciously called of God to salvation in Christ Jesus. So like the rest of us, Paul had nothing in which to boast, except God the Father and God the Son.

It is the Lord who is to be glorified in the gospel ministry. It is the Lord’s salvation and the Lord’s message. And when a sinner – any sinner – is redeemed, it is the grace and power of God which has accomplished it. Let Jesus Christ be praised.

Are you one of those whom the Lord has redeemed? Have you truly repented of your awful sinfulness before God? Is your faith and hope in Christ Jesus? Do you love Him with all your heart?